Escape From New York: Go to Portland, Maine!

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Welcome to Escape From New York, in which I find new cities and new homes for New Yorkers priced out of their own real estate market.

In this installment we feature Chad, a teacher and freelance writer/editor/videographer who lives with his wife, a teacher, and two kids in the Fieldston section of the Bronx. Fieldston is pretty darn nice with parks, diversity, and an easy commute.

Despite the attributes of their 1,500-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bathroom open-plan apartment, they dream of a backyard and lament that "the building contractors paid off the inspectors in order to skimp on the quality."

Their must-haves: A nontouristy city, near either the ocean or the mountains

Their deal breakers: It should have "opportunity/open for improvement and cultural growth that I could contribute to," he says. In other words: not too gentrified.

Their goal: A four-bedroom house with a garage and a "project room" for music, art, and woodwork projects for $300,000-ish.

I decided to stick with cities on the sea. In order to avoid sending everyone to Portland, OR, I've decided you guys should head to Portland, ME. It's beautiful and has an art scene. Yeah, it's cold. Invest in some outdoor gear (you'll be near the L.L.Bean outlet!). And, per Wikipedia, "with about 230 restaurants, Portland's per capita restaurant density ranks among the top cities in the United States." Hope you like lobster.

Though the average listing price tops $400,000, I found so many lovely homes at that price point or less that it was hard to choose. And while Maine has a reputation of being white as snow, peoplewise, Portland has gotten substantially more diverse. The population was 96.6% white in 1990, and 85% white in 2010.

Welcome home to…

2065 Washington Ave. for $314,900

Here's some good news about this property, besides its beauty: It's got two units, so you'll have rental income in addition to the "lovely sun-filled garden and yard ready for summer plantings of flowers and or vegetables." It's 2,504 square feet altogether, and includes a two-car garage.

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88 Sunset Ave. for $300,000

I love this house, and not just because of the ocean views. The 1,828-square-foot cottage on Great Diamond Island has the feel of a ship, with many hiding places and nooks that a kid would love. It has both an open and a glassed-in porch.

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163 Edwards St. for $300,000

It's a bungalow -- how much more do we need to sell it? One bedroom is on the first floor, making it a contender for aging in place. What else? A porch, sweet backyard, and lovely renovation all included.

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20 Deane St. for $369,000

I'd buy this place for the wallpaper alone. It has a beautiful kitchen, a great renovation (restored, but not overly done), great bay windows, and, at 2,243 square feet, lots of space. The third floor is finished -- ready for that project room.